Many of our clients experience debt collection calls at their place of employment. This blog will discuss when a creditor or third party collection agency may contact you at work, when they may not, and most importantly what you can do about it!
Can a creditor or collection agency contact me at work?
As a general rule, a creditor or collection agency may call you at work. Calls to an alleged debtors place of employment may continue until that creditor or collection agency knows, or should know that an alleged debtor may not receive calls at work. A creditor may call you at your place of employment to discuss an alleged debt and attempt to collect the debt with you directly. If you are unavailable, the creditor is allowed to request a co-worker take a message to have you return their call. The Iowa Debt Collection Practices Act (IDCPA) as well as the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) do not specify the number of times collection calls may be placed to employers. However, once an alleged debtor speaks with the creditor or collection agency, the creditor or collection agency may not call back during the same day. Also, keep in mind that even though the creditor may contact you at work to speak with you directly, they are still restricted by the other regulations of the FDCPA and the IDCPA, many of which are listed in the consumer protection section of our website. Some of these regulations include, but are not limited to the following:
- Threatening arrest or warrant, alleging the debtor has committed crime;
- Using obscene or abusive language;
- Refusing to take attorney information;
- Refusing to disclose the name of the agency for which they are calling; and
- Stating that your wages could be garnished or money seized from you without first obtaining a judgment against you.
A creditor or collection agency may also contact your place of employment and speak with a co-worker for the purpose of verifying that you work there. Calls for the specific purpose of verifying employment can only take place once a month.
A creditor or collection agency is never allowed to disclose information regarding an alleged debt to any third parties without permission from the alleged debtor. If you believe a creditor or collection agency has disclosed information about a debt to a co-worker, or any third party for that matter, it is best to try to interview that third party and record in writing everything that person remembers about the communication.
How can I stop collection calls at work?
A request that a creditor or collection agency cease calls at work can be verbal or written. Here the general rule is:
If you want a creditor or collection agency to stop contacting you, you must send a cease and desist letter in writing!
The written notice to cease and desist does not hold much weight unless you make a copy of the letter for yourself and send the notice to the creditor via certified mail.
There is an exception when it comes to collection calls at work.
You are NOT required to send a cease and desist in writing for collection calls placed to an employer. A creditor may be told verbally to cease and desist contacting an alleged debtor at work or on a work phone.
You may initiate the call by contacting the creditor and informing them that they have contacted you at work, provide the number the creditor called, and express to the creditor that you are not allowed to receive collection calls at work and to cease contacting you at that number. It is imperative that you keep a call log of the communication. If a creditor contacts you at work, you may at that time tell the creditor you are not allowed to receive calls at work. All calls, from you to a creditor or vice versa, should be recorded on a call log sheet or whatever available means to document the call. That way, if the creditor continues to call you will have documentation of each call. If you are issued a cell phone by your employer or if you use a certain phone solely for work purposes, the same representations may be made to the creditor or collection agency. You must make it clear that the phone number is a work number only.
In documenting collection calls, you should include the name of the creditor or collection agency, the phone number from which they called, the name of the representative if you know and a brief description of the conversation. Any and all subsequent calls should also be documented. Please feel free to use our collection communication log sheet.
If a creditor continues to call your place of employment after they have been informed that you are not allowed to receive said calls, you have a private cause of action against that creditor or collection agency. It is a violation if the creditor speaks with you directly or merely leaves a message for you to call back. ANY subsequent call to an employer constitutes a violation. If the creditor or collection agency is found liable for violating the FDCPA or the IDCPA, you will be entitled to damages, costs of the action and attorney fees. One or more violations of the FDCPA or the IDCPA may entitle an alleged debtor to damages.
Marks Law Firm, P.C. does not tolerate harassment or illegal debt collection tactics from creditors and collection agencies. We will not hesitate to initiate legal action against creditors who engage in illegal debt collection activity. We do not charge the client attorney fees for consumer protection cases. If you feel you are being harassment, the most important step is to document the collection communications you are aware of and to contact Marks Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your rights.
If you are curious, here is an excerpt directly from the text of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act with regard to employment and third party debt communications:
Communication in connection with debt collection [15 U.S.C. § 1692c]
(a) COMMUNICATION WITH THE CONSUMER GENERALLY. Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt —
(1) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer. In the absence of knowledge of circumstances to the contrary, a debt collector shall assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8 o’clock antimeridian and before 9 o’clock postmeridian, local time at the consumer’s location;
(2) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer; or
(3) at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.
(b) COMMUNICATION WITH THIRD PARTIES. Except as provided in section 804, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than a consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.
(c) CEASING COMMUNICATION. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except —
(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;
(2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
(3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.
If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.
(d) For the purpose of this section, the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.
Just to reiterate a few important points to remember if you are getting collection calls at work:
- Creditors may only call your employer once a month for the purposes of verifying employment;
- A creditor may not disclose any information with regard to an alleged debt to a co-worker, or any third party;
- You are permitted to verbally express to the creditor, or in writing, that you are unable to receive calls at work which deems them to have knowledge or “should know” not to call;
- After a creditor is put on notice to cease and desist, a creditor may not, under any circumstances, contact your place of employment;
- If a creditor is notified in writing to cease and desist all telephone collection communication, a creditor may not contact you at work or personally on any phone number they have as a reference.
Some of the issues covered in this article may seem complicated. If you are receiving collection calls at work or anywhere else that you find inconvenient or embarrassing please feel free to contact Marks Law Firm to discuss your situation.